Record Details

NHER Number:5131
Type of record:Monument
Name:Palaeolithic worked flints, possible Neolithic flint mines and/or post medieval flint manufacture, the Swell Pit/Forestry Commission Pit


Late 19th-century and 20th-century gravel workings. Thirty four possible Neolithic flint mines were identified in the first pit during the 1930s. Further observations in the 1980s (within an adjacent, larger pit) identified flint working debris thought to be associated with post medieval gun flint manufacture. A number of Palaeolithic objects were recovered from these pits in the later 20th century and it is possible that a number of handaxes reportedly found in the West Tofts area during the early 20th century were also found here (see NHER 5119).

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 826 907
Map Sheet:TL89SW

Full description

Late 19th-century and 20th-century gravel pits that have produced Palaeolithic objects and evidence for both Neolithic and post-medieval flint working. The earliest pit opened on this site was known as the Swell Pit (TL 828 908) and is clearly shown as a former gravel pit on the 1st Edition O.S map. By the mid 20th century a second, much larger pit had been opened to the south-west of the Swell Pit. This pit was known as the Forestry Commission Pit and is still open, although it has not been worked for some time.

Autumn 1933.
According to (S1) thirty-four flint mines were observed by the Rev. H. Tyrell-Green at the Swell Pit, cut through in section. Part of a gallery was dug out by Tyrell-Green. These features were apparently filled up in early 1934. See file for photographs taken by H. D. Hewitt of the pit and the possible Neolithic flint mines (S2).
This site is also briefly mentioned in (S3).

At least two museums hold worked flints that are known to be from this site. These include 2 Neolithic flakes held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Z 31915; Z 31925), both of which are recorded as being from the "mining site of Grimes Graves type at the Swell Pit, Lynford". As noted on (S1) the British Museum holds a single worked flint from this site that was originally believed to be Palaeolithic, but which is now regarded as natural (2011,8050.8).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 13 May 2013 and 11 February 2016.

Early 20th century. Stray Finds?
The Cambridge University Museum holds a number of poorly-provenaced handaxes that were recovered in Lynford parish during the late 19th century and/or early 20th century. As noted in (S5), these include a group recorded as being simply from "Lynford" (NHER 5121) and a smaller group from "West Tofts" (NHER 5119). In (S4) Wymer suggests that these pits may well have been the source of the "Lynford" material. It is also noted that this site may have also been the source of the "West Tofts" handaxes, although the notes in (S6) appear to suggest that another nearby pit (NHER 58002) is a more likely provenance for these objects.
P. Watkins (HES), 13 May 2013.

Pre 1985. Field Observation.
In the later part of the 20th century the Forestry Commission Pit was one of the sites visited by R. J. MacRae in order to collect Palaeolithic material. Roe (S5) listed a single retouched flake/flake implement as being found by MacRae at this pit. According to (S4) and (S9) the Pitt Rivers Museum holds seven rolled primary flakes and a cordate handaxe that MacRae found at this site. These finds were previously recorded as NHER 5120.
P. Watkins (HES), 13 May 2013.

11 May 1982. Field Observation.
Visited by J. J. Wymer with R. J. Macrae.
Pit open but unworked. Deep sections much obscured by talus. Chalky, fluviatile gravels overlie chalk with massive flint nodules. East face is much confused by the activities of Neolithic flint mines. [Finds] from the talus of a pit c. 2m deep and 2m wide, buried by c. 1m of chalky overburden. Two abandoned flint roughouts were found along with a coarse flake and a flake with a prepared platform (Wymer Collection). These may be prehistoric although in view of subsequent discoveries they may have been associated with post-medieval gunflint production.
Information from (S7).
P. Watkins (HES), 13 May 2013.

1987. Field Observation.
Profile of pit (c. 3m wide) observed in east face of pit by J. J. Wymer (NAU). Finds were recovered from the fill of this feature and the scree below, including 3 core, 3 cores on large flakes and 28 flakes (representative of many more that were present). The industry represented by these flints was crude with evidence for the use of metal hammers. The evidence was considered consistent with the early pre-Brandon (?16th to 17th century) gunflint industry, although no finished examples were seen. The flint was presumably being mined here around this time, which may be an explanation for the features observed by Tyrell-Green. The quality of the flints was poor and unlike the 'Floor Flint' being mined at Grimes Graves.
See notes by J. J. Wymer in file (S8). It should be noted that Wymer was almost certainly in the adjacent Forestry Commission Pit when he made these observations as cartographic sources suggest the Swell Pit was no longer open at this time.
E. Rose (NAU), 29 November 1988. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 13 May 2013.

March 2017. 'Brecks from Above' and Breckland National Mapping Programme.
The extent of the pits has been mapped from earthworks visible on imagery from a lidar survey (S10), together with the Ordnance Survey 1st edition 6 inch map (S11). The extent of the site has been adjusted accordingly. No features relating to flint mining, either in the Neolithic or the post medieval period, were identified.
S. Tremlett (Norfolk Historic Environment Service), 31st March 2017.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 1000000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Palaeolithic - 1000000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • FINDSPOT (Prehistoric - 1000000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • FLINT MINE? (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LITHIC WORKING SITE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • EOLITH (Undated)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC? to 42 AD?)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • ROUGHOUT (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC? to 42 AD?)
  • FLAKE (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • CORE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FLAKE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 89 SW 17 [2].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Publication: Barber, M., Field, D. and Topping, P. 1999. The Neolithic Flint Mines of England. p 75.
<S1>Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Neolithic.
<S2>Photograph: Hewitt, H.D.. 1933. Lynford: Neolithic flint mines.
<S3>Article in Monograph: Sainty, J. E. 1935. Norfolk Prehistory. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1935. Norwich, September 4-11. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Appendix pp 60-71. p 66.
<S4>Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. p 52.
<S5>Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 242.
<S6>Website: TERPS online database. Site 22755.
<S7>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J. J. Journal. No 7. p 103.
<S8>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J.J.. 1988. From 'The Swell Pit', West Tofts.
<S9>Record Card: Wymer, J. J. Wymer Index Card - Palaeolithic. Lynford (West Tofts).
<S10>LIDAR Airborne Survey: Various. LIDAR Airborne Survey. LIDAR Lynford Forest Research 0.5m DTM 15-JUN-2015 (BNG Project, FC England, Fugro Geospatial).
<S11>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1889 - 1891. Ordnance Survey first edition 6 inch map.. 1:10,560.

Related records - none

Find out more...

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2021 Norfolk Historic Environment Service